The herd of cats otherwise known as the Indiana State Thespians group was lollygagging around the buses while the bus drivers and hotel staff were loading luggage for the trip home. Terry led our little group from Yorktown back down to the corner of Broadway and 47th Street for one last look at Times Square.
We spent a few minutes taking it all in – the neon Coke sign, the giant blue Panasonic billboard that wrapped around the corner of its building, the Wienerwald Restaurant, and the Oh! Calcutta! and Brooke Shields Calvin Klein billboards that made an impression on me.
“Man, I could live here,” I said to nobody in particular.
“You’re crazy,” Jeff retorted. “There’s no way in hell I could live in a city like this.”
“There’s so much going on though,” I told him. “I’ve never felt so alive as I did this week.”
“Well, get over it, buddy,” Jeff said. “It’s back to the cornfields, hog farms, and the big city of Muncie for us,” he added with a laugh.
By the time we returned to our bus, the crowd surrounding it had dwindled down to a dozen or so riders. We filed in onto and took the same seats we had on our journey here. My exuberant seatmate stood up to let me into the seat by the window. He started in on me before I could get seated.
“Where were you this week?” he started. “I don’t remember seeing you since we got off the bus. Did you have a good time? What did you think of….” It went on like that for a few minutes. I tried to answer some of his questions but he was just too wound up to slow down and listen. Up ahead of us I heard Jeff laughing. Whether it was over my situation or something else, I had no idea.
I watched and listened to my seatmate carry on for a few more minutes. He was sharing his enthusiasm with everyone near the back of the bus now. I nodded and grinned a few times.
Soon, we could feel the lurch of the bus as the driver pulled into traffic. I gave the Hotel Edison sign one more look.
I’m going to miss this place, I thought. I can’t wait to come back.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The kids’ free time for shopping in Times Square was drawing to its close. It was our final night in the Big Apple and I wasn’t ready to leave. The girls were now inside the Disney Store shopping to their hearts’ content. I waited outside to get one long last look at this city that I loved. Once upon a time I wanted to live here. Looking at the craziness of it all thirty years later, there was no way in hell I could live here now.
The girls all emerged from the store giddy with excitement, most of them holding tight to a Disney shopping bag.
“All right then. Did you girls find everything you were looking for?” I asked.
“Yes,” they told me with exuberance.
“We ready to head back to the bus then?”
“Yeah.” Their response was less than enthused as they moaned about the stores they missed out on.
That’s what you get when you visit a store you can shop at back home, I kept to myself.
Our buses took us back to the Manhattan Center where the equipment bus had to be loaded with the band equipment, costumes, and backdrops before departing the city. Our bus was directed to park in front of the center. We got out so we could stretch our legs and take care of personal business if needed.
It seemed like an unusually long wait for the equipment bus to come back around to join us. The girls and I mingled a bit and paced the sidewalk down to the corner and back while we waited. Time and time again my eyes were drawn to the Empire State Building, lit up in bright orange lights.
The equipment bus finally came back around. The V’s got off of the bus and had a few words with the two drivers and a few of the parents to get the itinerary for the trip home straight. Soon we were loading back onto the bus to the highway for home.
I waited back and watched as the kids and adults funneled through the bus door.
“Come on, silly,” Maggie beckoned with an outstretched hand. “We have to go.”
“I’m coming,” I assured her. “I want to get one last look before we leave.” She knew what I meant and shot me a grin.
“Okay. I’ll see you on the bus then.” She turned around and joined the herd of Bishop Dwenger people getting on the bus.
The last few stragglers were getting on the bus so I slowly made my way behind them. I looked down the street to get one last look at the Empire State Building.
“I hope it’s not another thirty years,” I told her. I held the look as long as possible before entering the bus and settling into my seat for the long journey home.